Janata Parivar: Can Lalu, Nitish, Mulayam be a happy family?

  • Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 06, 2015 13:31 IST

The pathologists of our polity are all set to set up another laboratory - yes, that's the kernel of the proposed coming together of the various Janata Dal factions under one umbrella.

I call them pathologists for they know best the problems of the poor India - or call it the India removed from the razzmatazz of the emerging urban giant. That they could do precious little to rid it of its countless ailments is another story.

Their first and the last government at the Centre stood on and stumbled between two crutches: of the BJP and the then relatively healthy Left. The United Front experiment of 1996-98 was an amalgam of parties that were not entirely an aggregate of JD factions. There, too, the legislative minority and the Congress's outside support did them in.

Their internal squabbles only compounded their uneasy ties with outside supporters. But, the least discussed reason for social justice protagonists' governance failure was their distrust of physicians among politicos who knew the cure but were not good at diagnosis which is a pathologist's specialty. A telling example of what can be achieved in the event of them working together was Lalu Prasad Yadav's justification for introducing cold storage on wheels to transport vegetables. "In our country, leather footwear are sold in air-conditioned shops and veggies on footpath," he had argued as the railways minister in UPA 1.

The logic was impeccable. It was a byproduct of prescription based on fine diagnosis. But in contrast, in the very same period, one saw Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party slamming English.

The SP has since progressed to distributing laptops to students under Mulayam's son and Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, who studied in Australia and could be rated as a marginal physician. Another case in point is Bihar's Nitish Kumar, an engineer by training and arguably the best finished product of the social justice movement.

If JD 2 is able to harness the vast social base of its original print, the challenge to its rivals will be formidable, even unbeatable. But a pre-requisite for that has to be rock-solid unity under an undisputed leadership chain. Now that's easier said than achieved. The two best non-Congress experiments failed over leadership dispute: the Janata Party of the 1970s and the Janata Dal of the 80s.

Lalu now says Mulayam will be the undisputed leader of the new JD. But his silence on Nitish's leadership in Bihar is disconcerting. For the longevity of JD 2 will be decided in the poll battle there in October with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The JD satraps, notably Nitish and Lalu, have it in them to take on Modi in the public discourse that the BJP mascot has gotten used to dominating. The debate in the battle for Bihar will be high on native political wisdom. The winner there will take all--in popular perception and projection of our polity's future. Bihar after all is India's political thought mart.

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